zenDine Logo
Chef preparing a Japanese-inspired roast turkey in his Tokyo restaurant

12 minutes

Explore Japan Thanksgiving Food: Unique Twist on Holiday Classics

26/10/2023 2:44 AM

Discover the allure of Japan Thanksgiving Food as it combines traditional American favorites with Japan's rich culinary traditions. From authentic dishes to fusion feasts, dive into a unique celebration of gratitude and flavor.

Table of Contents

Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday in the United States, but did you know that Japan also has its own take on this festive occasion? Japanese Thanksgiving food is a feast for the senses, showcasing the country's rich culinary traditions and innovative approach to cuisine.

In this section, we'll delve into the world of Japan Thanksgiving food and discover how this vibrant culture puts a unique twist on traditional holiday classics. From traditional dishes to innovative creations, Japanese Thanksgiving is a celebration filled with flavorful surprises.

Key Takeaways:

  • Japan has its own version of Thanksgiving, which combines traditional American dishes with Japanese flavors and cooking techniques
  • Japanese Thanksgiving food is a celebration of the country's culinary traditions, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients and beautiful presentation
  • Washoku, the traditional Japanese cuisine, plays a significant role in Thanksgiving celebrations in Japan
  • Japanese Thanksgiving is a time for expressing gratitude and giving thanks, with its own unique rituals and customs
  • If you're planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in Japan or incorporate Japanese-inspired dishes into your own celebration, there are plenty of tips and resources available to help you create a memorable feast

Japanese Thanksgiving Traditions

Japanese families and friends enjoying a Thanksgiving picnic under autumn foliage

Thanksgiving is not a traditional Japanese holiday, but it has gained popularity in recent years, mainly due to the influence of American culture. The celebration of Japan Thanksgiving takes place on November 23rd, which is also a national holiday known as Labor Thanksgiving Day.

The Japanese Thanksgiving celebration takes a different approach than the traditional American Thanksgiving. Instead of gathering with family at home, people in Japan often spend the day with friends or out in nature, enjoying autumn activities such as viewing colorful foliage and feasting on seasonal foods.

Authentic Japanese Thanksgiving meals vary depending on the region, but they typically include grilled fish, rice, and a variety of vegetable dishes. In some areas, people also enjoy a special soup made with mochi (a type of rice cake) and vegetables called "Ozoni."

Japanese Thanksgiving Traditions and Rituals

Like in many cultures, expressing gratitude is an essential element of Japanese Thanksgiving. Some common Japanese Thanksgiving rituals include:

  • Shizuko, which involves visiting a shrine or temple to give thanks and seek blessings for the coming year
  • Writing notes of thanks on special "Thanksgiving cards" and sending them to friends and family
  • Participating in local community events such as harvest festivals and parades

Japanese Thanksgiving is also a time for many businesses and workplaces to express appreciation for their employees. Many companies hold special parties or give gifts to their staff as a way to say "thank you" for their hard work throughout the year.

Authentic Japanese Thanksgiving Meals

Authentic Japanese Thanksgiving meal with grilled fish, rice, and Ozoni soup

As previously mentioned, authentic Japanese Thanksgiving meals feature a variety of dishes that highlight seasonal ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Here is an example of a typical Japanese Thanksgiving menu:

Dish Description
Grilled fish A popular dish in Japan, often served with soy sauce and grated daikon (a type of radish)
Rice A staple in Japanese cuisine, often served with pickled vegetables or miso soup
Seasonal vegetable dishes Examples include simmered kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and sweet potato
Ozoni soup A soup made with mochi, vegetables, and sometimes chicken or seafood
Tofu or soybean dishes Commonly eaten in Japan, often served with grated ginger and soy sauce

For dessert, Japanese Thanksgiving often features traditional Japanese sweets called "wagashi," which are typically made with beans, rice flour, and sugar.

Now that we've explored the traditions and authentic Japanese Thanksgiving meals, let's take a closer look at the fusion of Japanese and American flavors in section 3.

Fusion Flavors: Japanese-American Thanksgiving

One of the most exciting aspects of Japan Thanksgiving food is the fusion of Japanese and American flavors. With Thanksgiving being a relatively new tradition in Japan, chefs and home cooks are always experimenting with new ways to create unique and delicious dishes that combine the best of both worlds.

"Thanksgiving in Japan is like an exciting culinary adventure where we get to blend the flavors of two cultures. It's a chance to explore new ingredients and techniques and come up with something truly special,"- Chef Yuki Tanaka, owner of a popular Japanese-American fusion restaurant in Tokyo

One of the most popular Thanksgiving dishes in Japan is the classic roast turkey, but with a Japanese twist. Instead of traditional stuffing, Japanese chefs often use rice and season it with soy sauce, sake, and other Japanese seasonings. The result is a succulent turkey with a unique blend of flavors that is sure to please any palate.

Another popular Thanksgiving dish with a Japanese twist is pumpkin pie.

Slice of kabocha-based Japanese pumpkin pie with whipped cream

In Japan, pumpkins are often used in savory dishes, so it's not surprising that Japanese chefs have found a way to incorporate them into a sweet dessert. Instead of the traditional pumpkin pie, Japanese chefs often create a custard-like dessert made with kabocha, a Japanese type of pumpkin. The dessert is then flavored with vanilla and other Japanese seasonings for a delicious and unique Thanksgiving treat.

Comparing Thanksgiving dishes in Japan and the US

Thanksgiving Dish Japan United States
Turkey Seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and other Japanese seasonings. Traditionally stuffed and seasoned with herbs and spices.
Pumpkin Pie Made with kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin, and flavored with vanilla and other Japanese seasonings. Made with pumpkin pie spice and served with whipped cream or ice cream.
Green Bean Casserole Not a traditional Japanese Thanksgiving dish. A classic American side dish made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and crispy fried onions.

As you can see from the comparison table above, Japanese Thanksgiving dishes often have a unique twist on traditional American dishes. But that doesn't mean that you can't find classic American Thanksgiving dishes in Japan as well. Many restaurants and grocery stores in Japan offer a variety of Thanksgiving dishes, both traditional and with a Japanese twist.

The Allure of Washoku: Traditional Japanese Thanksgiving

Traditional Japanese osechi-ryori in a jubako

When it comes to the Japanese Thanksgiving menu, there is a strong emphasis on traditional cooking techniques, seasonal ingredients, and the art of presentation. Washoku, the traditional Japanese cuisine, has a significant influence on the Thanksgiving feast, with dishes that showcase the flavors and textures of Japanese cooking.

One staple of Japanese Thanksgiving meals is the osechi-ryori, a selection of small dishes served in a jubako, or stackable lacquerware boxes. The osechi-ryori typically consists of sweet and savory dishes, with each dish symbolizing a wish for the New Year. Examples of osechi-ryori dishes include:

Dish Description
Kuromame Sweet black soybeans that symbolize health and hard work
Kamaboko Steamed fish cake that represents the rising sun
Tazukuri Candied sardines that symbolize a bountiful harvest

In addition to the osechi-ryori, a typical Japanese Thanksgiving menu may also include a variety of dishes like sashimi (raw fish), tempura (battered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables), and shabu-shabu (thinly sliced beef or pork cooked in a hot pot).

The presentation of the dishes is equally important in Japanese Thanksgiving cuisine. Each dish is carefully arranged to showcase its unique colors and textures, and the use of seasonal ingredients plays a significant role in the overall presentation. The focus on presentation reflects the Japanese concept of shokunin, which emphasizes the pursuit of excellence in one's craft or profession.

Must-Try Thanksgiving Dishes from Japan

Spread of Japanese-American fusion Thanksgiving dishes on a festive table

If you're looking to add a unique twist to your Thanksgiving menu, Japan has plenty of culinary delights to offer. From savory dishes to sweet treats, here are some must-try Japanese Thanksgiving dishes:

Turkey Tempura

This dish combines the best of Japanese and American cuisine, featuring juicy pieces of turkey coated in a light batter and deep-fried to perfection. Served with a traditional dipping sauce, it's a deliciously crispy way to enjoy your Thanksgiving bird.

Miso-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a staple of any Thanksgiving feast, and this Japanese-inspired version adds a sweet and savory twist to the classic dish. The potatoes are coated in a miso glaze and roasted until caramelized, creating a flavorful and satisfying side dish.

Green Tea Stuffing

This innovative take on stuffing incorporates the earthy flavor of green tea into the bread and herb mixture. The result is a fragrant and unique stuffing that pairs perfectly with turkey and gravy.

Soba Salad

For a lighter Thanksgiving side dish, try this refreshing soba noodle salad. Tossed with a soy and ginger dressing and topped with sliced vegetables and herbs, it's a healthy and flavorful addition to any holiday table.

Pumpkin Pudding

If you're a fan of pumpkin pie, you'll love this Japanese-inspired version. The creamy, custardy pudding is made with kabocha squash and flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, resulting in a rich and delicious dessert that's perfect for Thanksgiving.

These are just a few examples of the many Japanese Thanksgiving dishes that can elevate your holiday menu. Experiment with new flavors and ingredients to create a unique and memorable Thanksgiving feast!

Bento Boxes: A Modern Twist on Thanksgiving Feasts

Thanksgiving-themed bento box with Japanese fusion dishes, set on an autumn picnic blanket

For those who want to savor the flavors of Japanese Thanksgiving while on-the-go, bento boxes offer a convenient and visually appealing option.

Bento boxes are traditional Japanese lunch boxes that have gained worldwide recognition for their artful presentation and healthy contents. They typically comprise a variety of dishes arranged in a visually pleasing manner, providing a balanced and satisfying meal.

During Thanksgiving, bento boxes offer a fun and unique way to enjoy a Japan-inspired feast. A typical Thanksgiving bento box may include turkey tempura, sweet potato croquette, kabocha pumpkin salad, and Japanese-style pickles. Many shops and restaurants in Japan offer Thanksgiving-themed bento boxes throughout the holiday season.

These boxes are not only practical and delicious but also appropriate for the current social distancing measures since they can be easily taken home or consumed in outdoor spaces. Bento boxes are also eco-friendly, as they are usually made from sustainable materials and eliminate the use of disposable packaging.

So whether you're looking for a convenient alternative to a big Thanksgiving meal or simply want to try something new, a Thanksgiving bento box is a tasty and visually stimulating option to consider.

A Festive Experience: Dining Out on Thanksgiving in Japan

For those who prefer to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal outside of the home, many restaurants in Japan offer a unique dining experience for the holiday. From traditional Japanese cuisine to fusion dishes that blend Japanese and American flavors, there are plenty of options to choose from.

If you're looking for an authentic Japanese Thanksgiving celebration, consider visiting a high-end washoku restaurant. These establishments provide a traditional dining experience, featuring seasonal ingredients and intricate dishes that are beautifully presented. Some popular options include:

Restaurant Location Menu Highlights
Kikunoi Kyoto Seasonal kaiseki dishes
Tenku Ryugin Tokyo High-end fusion cuisine
Ise Sueyoshi Tokyo Traditional washoku dishes

For those who want to try Japanese-inspired Thanksgiving dishes with a modern twist, there are also a variety of fusion restaurants to choose from. These establishments blend Japanese and American flavors to create unique and exciting dishes that are sure to satisfy. Some popular options include:

Restaurant Location Menu Highlights
Hard Rock Cafe Various locations Turkey and wasabi mashed potatoes
Yabu Various locations Katsu-style turkey cutlets
Shake Shack Various locations Pumpkin pie concretes

For a more casual dining experience, consider visiting one of the many American-style chain restaurants that can be found throughout Japan. These establishments offer a taste of home, with classic Thanksgiving dishes that are sure to please. Some popular options include:

  • Outback Steakhouse
  • TGI Fridays

Whether you're looking for a traditional Japanese Thanksgiving celebration or a fusion of Japanese and American cuisine, dining out is a great way to experience the holiday in Japan. With a wide range of restaurants to choose from, there's something for everyone.

Sweet Delights: Japanese Thanksgiving Desserts

No Thanksgiving celebration is complete without indulging in delicious desserts, and Japan offers its own unique twist on sweet treats during the holiday season. From traditional wagashi to modern flavor combinations, Japanese Thanksgiving desserts are not to be missed.

Traditional Wagashi

Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, are an essential part of any Japanese Thanksgiving spread. Made with ingredients such as mochi rice cakes, sweet azuki bean paste, and matcha green tea powder, wagashi are intricately designed to showcase the artistry of Japanese confectionery. The delicate flavors and textures of wagashi make them a perfect after-dinner treat.

Wagashi Treat Description
Daifuku Mochi rice cake filled with sweet azuki bean paste
Dorayaki Pancake-like confection filled with sweet azuki bean paste
Yokan Jellied dessert made with sweet azuki bean paste and agar gelatin
Ohagi Mochi rice cake coated in sweet azuki bean paste or soybean flour

Modern Flavor Combinations

In recent years, Japanese patisseries have started to incorporate Thanksgiving flavors into their desserts, resulting in a delicious fusion of Japanese and American ingredients. Some popular dessert combinations include matcha pumpkin pie, yuzu cranberry cheesecake, and black sesame sweet potato tart. These creative desserts offer a new take on Thanksgiving classics and provide a unique Japanese twist on traditional flavors.

Seasonal Fruit Desserts

Japan is known for its high-quality seasonal fruit, and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to showcase these sweet treats. Some popular Japanese fruits used in Thanksgiving desserts include persimmons, pears, and chestnuts. These fruits are incorporated into a variety of desserts, such as fruit tarts and fruit-filled mochi, to create light and refreshing options to indulge in after a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

The Art of Giving Thanks: Japanese Rituals

Thanksgiving is a time for expressing gratitude, and Japanese culture has its own unique rituals for giving thanks during the holiday season. One such tradition is known as Niiname-sai, which is held in November and is considered the oldest of all Japanese festivals.

Niiname-sai is a Shinto ceremony where the Emperor offers newly harvested rice to the gods, expressing gratitude for the bountiful harvest. This ritual has been a part of Japanese culture since ancient times and is still celebrated today, with the current Emperor performing the ritual at the Imperial Palace.

Another Japanese Thanksgiving tradition is called labor Thanksgiving Day, or kinro kansha no hi. This holiday, which falls on November 23rd, was established as a national holiday in 1948 to celebrate and honor workers and their contributions to society. It is a day for expressing gratitude for the hard work and dedication of others.

In addition to these formal traditions, Japanese families often have their own unique ways of expressing gratitude during Thanksgiving. It is common for families to gather together and share a meal, giving thanks for each other's company and blessings in their lives. Some families may also offer prayers at a shrine or temple, expressing gratitude for their health and well-being.

"Japanese culture places great value on expressing gratitude and showing appreciation for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on these blessings and express our thanks to those around us."

Overall, the art of giving thanks in Japanese culture is a deeply ingrained part of daily life, and Thanksgiving is just one of many opportunities to express gratitude. By honoring these traditions and taking time to appreciate the people and blessings in our lives, we can cultivate a sense of gratitude and contentment that will enrich our lives all year round.


Exploring Japan Thanksgiving food is a fascinating journey into a world of flavorful traditions and innovative culinary creations. From authentic Japanese Thanksgiving meals to fusion dishes that blend Japanese and American flavors, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you're a fan of traditional Thanksgiving fare with a Japanese twist or eager to try something entirely new, Japan's unique approach to the holiday is sure to enrich your Thanksgiving experience.



Q: What unique twist can I expect for traditional Thanksgiving desserts in Japan?

A: Japanese desserts bring a refreshing touch to the traditional Thanksgiving table. You'll find classics like cheesecake with a matcha twist and savory-sweet kabocha squash pies. It's the perfect way to add a Japanese flair to your holiday meal.

Q: How is mashed potatoes with shio koji different from the regular mashed potatoes served during Thanksgiving?

A: Mashed potatoes with shio koji is a Japan-friendly version of the traditional side dish. Shio koji, a fermented seasoning, gives the creamy mashed potatoes a delightful umami touch, making it a standout side during a Thanksgiving feast.

Q: Are there vegan options for a Japanese Thanksgiving meal?

A: Absolutely! Whether you're vegan or just exploring, Japanese dishes offer a plethora of vegan options for Thanksgiving. From miso-glazed eggplant (nasu dengaku) to tofu stuffing and mushroom gravy, there's a hearty selection to make your Thanksgiving special.

Q: Can I expect a traditional roast during Thanksgiving in Japan, or are there unique main courses?

A: While roasted turkey remains a favorite, Thanksgiving in Japan often sees a fusion of traditional Japanese and American holiday dishes. Main courses might include items like miso-glazed gyoza or nasu dengaku, offering a unique version of Thanksgiving for those living in Japan.

Q: What Japanese side dishes would complement my Thanksgiving meal?

A: Japanese cooking brings a plethora of side dishes that can elevate your Thanksgiving meal. Favorites like tempura green beans, miso-glazed brussels sprouts, and nasu dengaku (miso-glazed eggplant) are savory additions that harmonize with traditional Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes.

Q: Are cranberry sauce and ginger commonly used in Japanese Thanksgiving dishes?

A: While cranberry sauce is a staple of the American Thanksgiving table, in Japan, it might be given a local twist with additions like ginger. This blend offers a fusion of flavors, making Thanksgiving in Japan a unique culinary experience that celebrates both Japanese food and traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Basic Japanese Dishes

zenDine blog author

Haru is a food writer from Tokyo who writes for the company zenDine. He loves to explore all kinds of Japanese food, from simple home dishes to fancy meals at top restaurants.

Popular Tags
Osaka Restaurants
Hiroshima Restaurants
Japanese Desserts
Fukuoka Restaurants
Japan Dining 101: Questions and Answers
Nagoya Restaurants
Yokohama Restaurants
Kobe Restaurants
Basic Japanese Dishes
History of Japanese Cuisine
Kyoto Restaurants
Tokyo Restaurants
Affordable Restaurants Tokyo
Samurai Cuisine
Recent Posts
overhead view of a steaming pot of Chanko Nabe, surrounded by fresh ingredients
What Is Chanko Nabe? Where to Eat the Sumo Wrestlers' Favorite Stew in Tokyo?

07 Feb 2024

7 minutes

Latest Posts

View All